Leading urban air mobility (UAM) company Volocopter has taken a major step toward establishing itself as a future air taxi presence in China. It’s finalized a joint venture agreement with an affiliate of Chinese automotive heavyweight and Volvo owner Geely. The deal also seals the sale of 150 of the German manufacturer’s aircraft.
This week, Bruchsal-based Volocopter announced the its joint venture agreement with Geely’s aviation subsidiary, Aerofugia. The agreement creates a corporate structure focused on introducing UAM in China and expanding its reach and implantation across the vast market. As part of that, the shared company will purchase 150 Volocopter aircraft for use in developing and promoting air taxi and other UAM services. It will be operated out of Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan Province.
Baptized Volocopter Chengdu, the company is expected to work with regional and national aviation, transportation, and government agencies to accelerate the start of urban air mobility services in China, and help influence operational and regulatory policies framing those. Another aspect of the accord is the appointment of Geely Holding Group CEO Daniel Li Donghui to Volocopter’s advisory board. Geely owns around 10% of the German firm, roughly the same stake as other main investors like Daimler and Intel.
Geely, a major global maker of automotive and other transport equipment, operates a large manufacturing base in Chengdu. In 2017, after acquiring the innovative US auto and aviation company Terrafugia, Geely launched Aerofugia with the objective of pursuing drone deployment in sectors like agriculture, forestry, and next-generation transport services. This week’s joint venture with Volocopter represents an extension and acceleration of Geely’s efforts to get UAM aloft in China, and dominate that action once it begins.
“Geely has been a valuable partner since they became our strategic investor in 2019,” said Florian Reuter, CEO of Volocopter. “Today marks another important milestone on our journey to bring affordable electric air mobility to China, the biggest single market opportunity for the UAM industry. With the joint venture company up and running and Daniel Li Donghui as the new Geely representative on our Advisory Board, we are in pole position to introduce air taxi services globally in a safe, sustainable, and practical manner.”
A linked part of the deal was the signing of an agreement between Volocopter and Geely’s Chengdu-based aviation manufacturing unit. Under that, Geely will produce Volocopter aircraft and parts destined for the Chinese market, and use its industrial and distribution assets to promote the sale, delivery, and operation of the craft.
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